FaZe Clan has built up a media empire. The official social accounts on Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram total over 20 million followers. The vast network of esports players, content creators, and gaming influencers add millions more.
“FaZe Clan has the largest social media following of any esports organization,” said Charles Hambro, CEO of GEEIQ, a company that helps brands optimise esports strategies. “According to our data they have over 52 million followers across the esports side of their social media platforms. That’s not including the brand’s content creators or other influencers which increase that reach substantially.”
FaZe has continued evolving into new media opportunities as well. The organisation launched a Quibi show a few months ago and has plans to release a full-length feature show in the fall. As the organisation has created this web of content, new brand partners need to show they can match up to the lofty standards. It was a task Skyler Johnson, Co-founder of CTRL, didn’t take lightly.
“We made sure every aspect of the launch was creative and unique,” Johnson said. “We really pulled out all the stops for this one. We thought ‘why can’t we just go after content piece of the Year’ [at the Esports Awards]? Yeah, we’re a new brand but who cares? That was the mindset going into it.”
Johnson has been in esports for well over a decade, he founded Team Envy and spent over five years at G FUEL. Last fall, he launched CTRL and immediately brought on Call of Duty players Doug “Censor” Martin, Seth “Scump” Abner, and Dillon “Attach” Price. In all, the organisation had six influencers signed up prior to this deal (plus a Rick Astley easter egg in the coming soon section). The investment from FaZe Clan takes CTRL from six to over 60.
“FaZe, to me, is the ultimate embodiment of esports as a lifestyle brand,” Johnson said. “They do everything from music to art to clothing. They also all take care of their bodies, they workout, and are trying to spread a positive message. FaZe is the perfect partner for CTRL.”
CTRL is a drinkable meal replacement. The product boasts 23g of protein, 5g of fibre, and a whole cocktail of vitamins. The three currently-released products are all based on popular cereals with the goal being for the shake to taste like the bottom of a cereal bowl. From a brand perspective, that designation as a meal replacement allows CTRL to slide into FaZe alongside G FUEL without triggering non-compete clauses in the GFUEL contract.
“When Sundance [DiGiovanni] approached me, he wanted to do an energy drink,” said Johnson. “But I just needed a break from that and the energy drink space is oversaturated, there are so many companies doing energy. A meal replacement is something I had been cooking up for a while. I knew that legally we wouldn’t be attacking sports supplements or sports nutrition brands because we are actually a conventional food item.
“Ultimately, we don’t view [G FUEL] as competitors. We are providing meals that you just so happen to drink by adding water to it. [G FUEL] provides an energy source, they’re more of a quick beverage, our product fills a different lane.”
Most importantly, the contracts see it that way as well, allowing both brands to be partners with FaZe. The G FUEL and FaZe partnership is one of the longest-running – and most successful – brand deals in esports. As Chief Creative Officer for G FUEL, Johnson had a hand in producing a lot of the content that ties G FUEL and FaZe together. Now he is bringing that expertise in influencer marketing to the partnership with CTRL.
“The influencer approach is successful because of genuine and authentic people,” explained Johnson. “You are in their lives every day and you get to see the people use the product on a regular basis. You know these people and you know where your marketing efforts are going. The biggest thing is building a brand around a solid group of individuals who believe in the product enough to get in on the business side as well.”
FaZe Clan is taking a “significant minority stake” in CTRL as part of the deal. That equity split gives the organisation incentives to promote the product and allows for more creative content down the road as both parties benefit from successful activations.
“When we first started this company, Sundance said ‘I want to take an everybody eats approach,'” Johnson continued. “That’s the end goal. If we go down, we go down together. If we succeed, we do that together. Down the road, we will likely have smaller influencer tiers with the traditional commission code, but at this stage we really wanted our partners to believe in the brand and to have the longer vision in mind here.”
As the partnership continues, Johnson has plans for more content, unique flavours, and whatever opportunities his team of creatives puts on a whiteboard.